11 May Got 5 minutes? You have time to write.
I loved this idea the moment I heard about it.
Now writing for five minutes is not a new concept; it falls in line with the “write whenever you can” approach but with less pressure (or more realism?) than the write every day for hours mantra.
But does writing for JUST five little minutes really make a difference? Writers will say yes, it adds up, any writing is good writing, it’s all benefits your craft.
But for writers who are less confident (or merely unpublished dreamers), we somehow hear that five minutes is supposed to be an hour. Sure we start with 5 and it grows to 6 and then 10 and before we know it, we’re locked into our zone and writing like getaway bank robbers.
But that’s not what I’m talking about. I mean, only 5 minutes. No more. And maybe even less.
The truth? I don’t get an hour to write. Ever.
The reason? I am a new mom and the days of writing whenever I wanted (aka in my free time after work) are long gone. So if I can get ANY writing time in, it’s a win. 5 minutes worth? Feels like a gift from the gods (err my daughter).
Can it work? Does it make a difference? H-E-double-toothpick yes.
Five minutes of focused writing, whether you know what you want to write or just have a kernel of an idea can be very powerful. When five minutes is all you’ve got, you make the most of it. You get it out faster, you question yourself less, you do not get distracted. You just let it out.
Take this blog post for example. Written in five minutes. Wanna guess how long drafting a blog post used to take me? 😉
Focusing for just five minutes on your writing can be an amazing tool, particularly if your writing time keeps getting de-prioritized. It can also help jump start you if you lose your momentum.
So how do you do it? To start, really decide you only get 5 minutes. No more. Feel the angst of having so little time.
Next – and this is the important part – make a decision about what you want to use that time for. It doesn’t have to be a plan, just an intention. I’m going to write in my journal. I’m going to write a scene with my character where he first meets the villain. Or I’m going to describe the town where my protagonist lives. I’m going to write a list of words to replace the word “walk”. I’m going to write new ways for my characters to talk about the weather.
Grab what you’re writing on: your phone (personal favorite), paper, laptop, napkin. Anything will do. Then, when you’re ready, set your timer and go.
The first time I tried it, I was amazed at how many words flew out. It was as if they’d been bottled up and were just waiting a release. And I thought, well, I haven’t written in awhile, so of course.
But it happened again and again. Those five minutes became something I looked forward to.
Why does it work? Because you make those five minutes productive. And even if five minutes is all you get, you’ll feel yourself pushing your writing forward.
And that feels great.
Catherine Ellsworth is currently working on a science-fiction novel and runs a monthly critique group in the Bay Area.When not writing and reading, she eavesdrops on commuter conversations, monitors the development of AI, and fantasizes about living on other planets.